12 Most Famous PhD Theses In History

Thanks to Phil Krause pointing us in the direction of this great article over at Mr Geek

1. Recherches sur les substances radioactives (1903). In English, this translates to “Research on Radioactive Substances” Marie Curie.

mariecurieMarie Curie’s thesis is perhaps one of the most famous scientific document of the 20th century. The thesis documents her discovery of radioactivity materials such as radium and polonium, for which she was awarded 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics, and subsequently formed the core of her future research. She also won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911.


2. A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits (1937) Claude Shannon.

claudeshannonClaude Shannon’s thesis is said to be the most significant thesis of the 20th century, because it laid down the foundations of everything that has to do with ‘digital technology’. It is in here where Claude Shannon, at the ripe age of 21, proved how Boolean Algebra could become the building block of computers. The concept of using binary properties of electrical switches is at the core of all digital circuit design. Put it simply, Shannon’s thesis showed how a bunch 0s and 1s could do magic!

3. Non-cooperative games (1950) John Nash.

johnnashYou must remember him from the movie A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe. Nash’s thesis, titled “Non Cooperative Games” formed the building block for the Nash equilibrium, and his subsequent Nobel Prize in Economics (1994). His 28 page thesis is online and I’ve linked it in. I challenge you to read a few pages of it without getting dizzy. Nash’s handwriting is too messy.


4. Recherches sur la théorie des quanta  (1924) De Broglie.

debroglieThe name is cool, plus he’s got swag (just look at that pose). De Broglie was one of the great theoretical physicists of the 20th century. His 1924 thesis, “On the Theory of Quanta” laid down the revolutionary idea of wave-particle duality, as applied to electrons. This idea is one of the principle ideas of quantum mechanics. De Broglie’s thesis is 70 pages long, which I believe is a short space to describe such an powerful and majestic concept. This thesis was the reason he won the Nobel Prize in Physics a mere five years later.

5. The Principle of Least Action in Quantum Mechanics (1942) Richard Feynman.

Richard_Feynman_NobelRichard Feynman’s 1942 thesis “The Principle of Least Action in Quantum Mechanics” laid down the foundation of path integral technique and the famous Feynman diagrams. Feynman diagrams are used by physicists all over the world to pictorially represent the behavior of subatomic particles with mathematical expressions. Although his thesis wasn’t the reason he won a Nobel Prize for Physics, it is very popular in the physics community. After all it’s the work of Master “Feynman”.

6. A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions (1906) Albert Einstein.

alberteinsteinHow can a history list be complete without the evergreen Albert Einstein? Einstein’s doctoral thesis “A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions” was instrumental in the sense that Einstein ended up with a very accurate value for the Avogadro’s number. The value was in compliance with what he and Planck had found earlier from black-body radiation. Einstein’s thesis laid down the framework for his next breakthrough work on Brownian Motion. Einstein’s doctoral thesis is his most cited work to date.

See the other six here: 12 Most Famous PhD Theses In History

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